In what is turning into a great series between two outstanding teams, worthy of being in the Finals, the Boston Celtics take on the L.A. Lakers tonight at 9:00 p.m.
The Lakers took the pivotal game 3 in Boston on Tuesday night in a very close game to go up 2-1 in the series. They went up by as many as 17 points before the Celtics closed to within one point twice in the closing minutes.
For the Celtics, their key players have all had serious bench time in one game or another due to foul calls. After Kobe was whistled for 5 fouls in game 2, Phil Jackson went to work publicly on the officiating. After game 3, it was Doc River’s turn.
In truth, I see how the officiating is affecting this series. Both teams are playing outstanding courageous basketball. These teams are the last two NBA Champions and they both represent that indefatigable winning attitude extremely well.
For the Celtics:
1) Will the Celtics be allowed to play their physical brand of defense tonight – especially against Pau Gasol?
2) Will Rajon Rondo be able to solve the twin towers of L.A by getting into the middle, drawing coverage and dishing it out to open shooters?
3) What type of night will Ray Allen have after setting a Finals record for then going 0-11 the next game?
4) Will Paul Pierce have a game without foul issues and deliver a big time Finals game?
5) Will Kendrick Perkins be more of a factor at both ends of the floor?
a) The Celtics must solve the duel defense of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. They have been very active and quite good at keeping the Celtics at bay generally. Our long armed Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four must be a force at both ends of the court.
b) Rasheed Wallace must have a good game defensively, rebound, and work inside more on the other end. He is a critical piece to the Celtics success in my opinion.
c) Glen Davis and Nate Robinson having solid games will go a long way. The bench was solidly outplayed in game 3.
So far Kobe Bryant has been kept relatively in check in scoring. Expect him to get it going in a few games. Making him taking extra shots to fight to get his points is important.
Lamar Odom, after starting out like he did in 2008, was an important factor for the Lakers in game 3.
I don’t expect either team to go away. This will be a fight-to-the-finish type of series. Normally, the Celtics have a stronger will than their opponent and that eventually becomes a deciding factor. Their defensive energy is also being matched in this series and that is the biggest surprise. The Lakers’ defense is active and solid so far.
If the Celtics are allowed to play more physical it will work to their advantage. I’m not sure that will be allowed to happen for more than short periods.
Without those advantages in this series, intelligent play and solid execution will become the deciding factors. Normally, I don’t say that. The Celtics usually ‘out will’ and ‘out energy’ their adversaries even without great execution.
Now they have to see the court well and execute their plays with great intelligence by making the Lakers defend a certain way and then reacting to it to get the shots they want. It is how they attack the middle that will be most important. That will determine where on the court they open up shots from.